A Complete Guide to the Probate Process

Sorting out assets and estates might be the last thing on your mind after you lose a loved one. However, this needs to be done systemically to ensure the proper distribution of assets amongst the beneficiaries.

probate lawyers written on scrabble

If you aren’t familiar with the probate process and want to get your hands on a comprehensive guide to it. We are here to assist you.

This blog offers a breakdown of what a probate process can look like and how to ensure it proceeds smoothly.

Filing the Will

The proceedings of the probate process begin with the filing of the will.

A valid will leaves behind an executor; a person responsible for representing the deceased person’s assets. However, if there’s no will or an invalid will, the court has the right to appoint an administrator. The administrator is then given the responsibility to overlook the payment of liabilities and the distribution of assets.

Determining the Value of Assets

After the will has been filed in court and the executor or administrator determined, it’s time to assess the assets and estate’s value. The executor or administrator has to deal with this responsibility. They’re responsible for calculating the assets’ worth through the deceased’s lawyer or accountant, their tax returns file, or their will.

Last Will and Testament documents

The assets’ gross value is the total value of all the assets that the deceased had in their possession. In comparison, the net value is the total value minus any debts or liabilities that need to be paid off.

Paying Off Debts

Before the assets are divided up amongst the beneficiaries, it’s essential that the executor or administrator pays off the deceased person’s debts. They can get in touch with a debt collector or other sources to know about any debts and liabilities.

These liabilities are then paid off with the assets’ money, and only then the probate process moves forward. However, if there’s no money from the assets, the debts mostly die with their owner.

Distribution of Assets amongst Beneficiaries

Once all the liabilities have been taken care of, it’s time to divide and distribute the beneficiaries’ assets. This division takes place according to the will of the deceased person. But if the will is invalid or simply not available, the administrator divides up the assets according to the state’s statutes. Doing so ensures that all of the beneficiaries receive their rightful share in the assets.

 

If you’re looking for a probate lawyer to assist you through this challenging task, then Ledwidge & Associate, P.C., is at your service. Clients acknowledge our law firm in New York for our brilliant work and our remarkable customer service. Our litigation, probate, divorce, and Family Law Attorney Queens and Family Law Attorney Brooklyn deliver their best to ensure that you get your rights according to the law.

Learn more about our law services on our website.

Executor’s Commission: What It Is & How It Works

For many, taking up the role of an executor of state would be something honorable. The position is often assigned to a family member or friend of a deceased person who was close and trustworthy to the deceased person. That being the case, the role used to be entirely voluntary and was not something you got compensated for. After all, it was something you were doing for a loved one who had passed away.

This, however, is no longer the case when dealing with estates. With estates and assets becoming more complex, as well as the laws that affect them, a payment for the executor has been established as a way to pay the person dealing with the process. This payment is referred to as an executor’s commission.

A signed document with a pen

How Much Commission Does an Executor Get?

Executor commissions and payments are usually not a pre-set amount. There are a few factors that come into play when deciding how much compensation an executor will get for their work. These often include whether a fee had been mentioned in the will, what percentage the state law says can be given as commission, and if a court decides to apply reasonable compensation, an hourly rate that seems fair for the work.

If there are more than one executors assigned to handling the estate, then the amount may either be divided amongst them, or both may get full and equal compensation, depending on the size of the estate itself.

Executor Payments in New York

For executors in New York, there’s a percentage calculation that usually ends up deciding how much commission an executor will get. Once the will has been looked over by a probate attorney and the estate and all its assets have been valued, you’ll be able to get a percentage of that amount as your commission.

State laws dictate that an executor will get a minimum of 5% if the estate is worth 100,000 dollars. The percentage then drops with each increase in amount, giving 4% on a total of 300,000 dollars, 3% on 1 million dollars, and then finally 2% on values of over 5 million dollars.

People in suits talk to each other

Executor Payments as a Beneficiary

If you’re the executor of an estate but are also one of the beneficiaries of the will, you must be smart about dividing up the payments. The inheritance you get is tax-free, but the commission you get is taxed.

To make sure you end up with the best possible outcome, you should get the help of legal professionals like Ledwidge and Associates. Along with their executor services, they have probate attorneys and estate law attorney Queens and estate law attorney Brooklyn who can help you speed the entire settlement process.

Better Call Saul: Is the Show an Accurate Representation of Lawyers in Real Life?

Netflix logo on a TV

Saul Goodman, Attorney at Law, has long been people’s favorite on-screen lawyer—maybe only rivaled by the good old Denny Crane and Tom Hagen. The protagonist of the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul, Saul is a quirky, witty, and level-headed on-screen lawyer.

As a fictional character representing a real-life profession, would Saul Goodman stand the test of time?

Most Accurate Legal Show on Television?

Viewers have been smitten with the on-screen portrayal of this attorney and his forays into “elder law”—and, later, with criminal law. But how accurate is this show, as far as the portrayal of lawyers is concerned?

a judge’s gavel

Surprisingly, Better Call Saul has been called the most accurate legal show on television. Real lawyers did sit down to watch the show and gave it an A- for realism. We at the Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. are inclined to agree. It’s a pretty great show for the following reasons.

Realistic Court Life

The courts in Better Call Saul aren’t the romanticized, glamorized, theatrical scenes for sensational drama. They’re monotonous, daunting, and quite frankly, kind of boring—as they are in real life. We also get to see Saul struggle in public courts as a public defender, surviving pay cheque to pay cheque. It isn’t easy being a lawyer and dealing with public courts—and Better Call Saul does an excellent job of depicting that.

Realistic Jury-Working

Part of what makes Saul Goodman so good is his prowess with convincing anyone with his words. Saul opens his defense with the masterful working of the jury: starting with the bad, and quickly leaving them behind. His focus is on depicting his clients as humans capable of erring—and capable of learning from their mistakes. Real-life attorneys, too, do focus on humanizing their clients.

Realistic Elder Law

In the show, Saul Goodman starts off as someone who helps seniors make their wills—kind of like a probate lawyer, just not as extensive in scope. While his dealings with these seniors are fun and, at times, hilarious, the whole Sandpiper case is also very realistically portrayed. For those who haven’t seen the show, Sandpiper is a large senior care facility overcharging its clients without their knowledge. When Saul finds out he turns it into a case of fraud, and is able to pursue it—over several seasons. And that’s what makes it accurate. Legal negotiations take a long time to work out—it’s a bureaucratic process. Life doesn’t work like Primal Fear courtrooms and back alleys.

Looking for a Real-Life Lawyer Working Elder Law?

If you’ve been interested in family law, elder law, or probate services after watching this excellent show, you can reach out to us at the Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. online. We offer Family Law Services Queens, Family Law Services Brooklyn and in other areas of New York.

And don’t worry about the dividing of your estates, chalking up of your will, or answering your beneficiaries. Like Saul Goodman so often says: ‘s all good, man. Better Call Us!

 

Why You Need a Probate Lawyer to Figure Out Your Estates NOW

an old man on a bench

Okay, maybe we went a little overboard with the NOW, but you do need a probate lawyer—sooner better than later. One day you will need your estates, assets, and other particulars to be sorted out.

Imagine not taking the right step at the right time for your posthumous affairs and all potential candidates end up fighting among themselves.  But this isn’t Game of Thrones—and you have probate lawyers who can help you with the entire legal process.

What a Probate Lawyer Does

As a legal representative who has been licensed by the state to advise you on your legal particulars, probate lawyers can smoothen out an otherwise drawn-out process. If you die without a will, this complicates things for a probate lawyer.

rows upon rows of law books

Whether you need help with securing and assessing states or writing your will, a probate lawyer is there for you. Seniors usually find it hard to deal with the hassles involved in a legal process. There’s too much paperwork and jargon to deal with. A probate lawyer means you don’t need to worry about these trifles now. You can go about your affairs while your lawyer will take care of the more complicated matters.

Everything We Take Care Of

If you think helping you write your will is the only thing probate lawyers help you with, think again. There’s a lot more that goes into the process, including:

  • File your will with the relevant local court
  • Procure appraisals for your property and other assets
  • File tax returns for deceased clients
  • Identify and determine beneficiaries
  • Help resolve any disputes related to your assets

Overall, a process that is otherwise difficult and even bitter for you becomes easier. You don’t have to worry about ensuring you’re making the right choices and not meting out anyone any wrongs. It’s the lawyer’s job now.

Creditors, Beneficiaries, and Others

The beneficiaries will have questions. In the rare off-chance that everyone gets along (and people rarely do), you might have an easier time. Most of these cases, however, require legal counsel to make the process easier.

Usually, beneficiaries are often concerned about things that, if resolved now, won’t become an obstacle later on. Your lawyer can keep these beneficiaries in the loop by regularly sending them letters and emails. Any questions that they have can be sorted out right now. If you are sending these communications yourself (as many clients opt to do), you can ask your probate lawyer to go over them for you.

Where Can You Find a Probate Lawyer?

Where else but right here? Reach out to our associates at the Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. You can plan a consultation with a  Probate lawyer Brooklyn, Probate lawyer Queens in person if you’re in New York. We operate in the Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Bronx areas.

 

When Is Probate Not Necessary In New York?

A trustee signing a living trust and helping a property holder avoid probate

When you’re planning your estate, your goal should be to spare your family and legal heirs the hassle as much as you can. The probate court proceedings could be very extensive, costly, and complicated. If you’re based in New York, here’s when you can avoid probate:

Joint Ownership

If you jointly owned property with your deceased spouse, the probate process won’t apply if you had ‘rights of survivorship.’ In this case, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the owner after one of the owners passes away. However, you still might need to present some paperwork to the court to prove that the surviving owner now holds the property.

  • Joint tenancy: You’re called a joint tenant if you and your partner (married or not) own an equal share of the property. Joint tenancy applies to real estate, bank accounts, valuables, and vehicles.
  • Tenancy by the entirety: Unlike joint tenancy, this form of ownership is only applicable to married couples if their real estate is co-owned.

The last will of an individual

Payable-On-Death

A POD designation (payable-on-death designation) applies to bank accounts, certificates of deposits, and savings accounts in New York. Under this system, you have full control and full rights over the money in your accounts until your death. After your death, the same right passes on to the beneficiary automatically without going through the court proceedings.

Transfer-On-Death

Transfer-on-death or TOD applies to your securities and financial assets. You can register your brokerage accounts, bonds, and stocks in a TOD form in New York. You also need to name a beneficiary in the same form. The designated beneficiary will automatically inherit your financial investments after your death. Instead of going through the probate proceedings, the beneficiary will directly deal with the brokerage company.

According to the state law of New York, TOD deeds don’t apply to vehicles or real estate.

Living Trust

Any assets placed in a living trust don’t need to go through probate. You can hold almost any asset in a living trust, including bank accounts, real estate, and vehicles. All you need to do is create a trust document, assign a successor trustee, and transfer your estate ownership to the trust. After this point, the property’s ownership will be controlled in terms of the trust. After your death, the successor trustee can transfer the assets to the trust beneficiaries without court proceedings.

The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. helps families simplify the probate process in Brooklyn, Queens, and Jamaica. Joseph Ledwidge attorney has around 20 years of experience in dealing with the most complicated probate cases.

Speak with us for a free consultation.

 

Do Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules Supersede Those of a Will in New York?

Life insurance can be a great investment to alleviate the financial burden on your surviving family should you die unexpectedly. The policy can help cover the costs of your funeral, pay off outstanding debts, and ensure your family is provided for financially.

However, there can be issues that arise regarding wither your life insurance beneficiary rules will supersede those of your will. When you die, whether you have a will or not, your estate must go through the New York State probate process.

last will and testament in a court

If you have a will, then the Surrogate Court will use probate rules to ensure your estate is handled according to your will. If you do not have a will, then the Surrogate Court will use an administrative proceeding to handle your estate and its distribution to surviving family members.

Yet, if you have a life insurance policy and a will, the Court will follow the beneficiary rules of the insurance policy and not your will, in most cases. So, if you named your wife as the beneficiary years ago when you got the policy and then named your children as beneficiaries in your will, your wife would receive all the proceeds from the life insurance policy.

Exceptions When Your Will Supersedes Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules

There are a few different exceptions where you will supersede the life insurance beneficiary rules:

Exception Example #1

You named your wife as beneficiary of your life insurance. However, you got divorced but forgot to update your life insurance. Your divorce decree included a statement where your ex-wife gave up all rights and claims to life insurance, retirement accounts, and other such assets. In this situation, then the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your will would receive the life insurance proceeds.

Exception Example #2

You named your wife as beneficiary of your life insurance. Your wife passed away before you. You forgot to update your life insurance. Upon your death, if you had named beneficiaries in your will, they would receive the proceeds of the life insurance. If you did not, then the proceeds become part of the cash assets for your estate and are distributed according to your wishes.

Exception Example #3

You named your two children as beneficiaries of your life insurance. One of your children passed away before you did. Upon your death, the percentage that was to go to the child that died would either be distributed based on the beneficiary named in your will or become part of the cash assets of your estate and distributed accordingly.

Please keep in mind, these are very general examples to demonstrate when a will supersedes a life insurance beneficiary. There can be complex situations that can and do vary from one family to another.

In addition, for other types of accounts that have named beneficiaries like savings accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc., the beneficiaries named on these accounts would also supersede those named in a will in most cases.

happy Couple planning investment With Financial Consultant

Therefore, it is essential to get into the habit of reviewing named beneficiaries listed on life insurance and financial accounts annually. Updating beneficiaries is not difficult, and you may even be able to do so online.

You should also make it a habit to review and update your will annually, as necessary, with help from a New York probate attorney to ensure that the will reflects your current intentions and wishes.

For further assistance with creating or updating a will or assistance with updating beneficiaries on life insurance and financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!

Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance While Having a Trust in New York

Many people consider creating a trust either to complement their will or in place of a will. There can be several tax benefits to using a trust for certain types of assets, as well as avoiding hefty inheritance taxes and estate taxes.

If you are considering creating a trust in New York, there are several key things you need to know about naming beneficiaries on life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other such financial accounts with named beneficiaries.

To begin with, there is a difference in how insurance policy beneficiaries can be named, depending on whether you want to create a revocable living trust or irrevocable living trust. In a revocable living trust, the grantor of the trust can continue to make changes and update the trust until their death. They also can draw distributions from the trust.

In an irrevocable living trust, once it is established, it cannot be updated, changed, altered, or modified without the beneficiary’s or beneficiaries’ permission. All rights and claims the grantor previously held to the assets moved into an irrevocable trust are given up.

Revocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

Business photo showcasing money that is being held by the trustees for the beneficiaries

If you want the proceeds from your life insurance to go directly into your revocable trust, then you need to update the policy to name the trust as your primary beneficiary. There is no need to add secondary beneficiaries since you have a trust.

On the other hand, let’s assume you wanted your wife to have access to the life insurance proceeds immediately, without having to wait for a distribution from your trust. Then you would want to name her as the primary beneficiary and your trust as the secondary beneficiary. This way, if your wife passes away before you do, then the proceeds go directly to your trust upon your death. 

Irrevocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

The process of naming beneficiaries on life insurance policies with irrevocable trusts is similar to that of revocable trusts. You could list your trust as the primary beneficiary. Then the person designated as the beneficiary of the trust would receive the proceeds from your life insurance.

You could also list a person as the primary beneficiary and the trust as the secondary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary is still alive upon your death, then they receive the proceeds from the life insurance policy. If they are also dead, then the proceeds are transferred to the trust and the beneficiary of the irrevocable trust.

What About Naming Beneficiaries on Other Types of Accounts?

For any type of account where you name a beneficiary, like a 401(k), IRA, savings account, etc., you would want to list your trust as the primary beneficiary when you want the proceeds to be transferred directly into the trust.

Or, if you wanted all or some of the proceeds to go to a named beneficiary, then you would list them as the primary beneficiary or stipulate the percentage they would receive upon your death. You would list your trust as secondary or as a co-benefactor and what percentage should be transferred into the trust.

What if I Named Beneficiaries of My Life Insurance in My Will Too?

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor

The New York State Probate Process would ensure that the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your insurance policy received the proceeds regardless of the beneficiaries you named in your will. If you named your trust as the beneficiary, then the trust would receive the proceeds.

For further questions about revocable and irrevocable trusts, naming life insurance beneficiaries, and naming beneficiaries on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact New York probate attorney, Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!